"Baby teeth" are as important to infants and children as permanent teeth are to older children and adults.

Not only are these teeth necessary for a child to chew and speak, baby teeth serve another very important purpose--they save space for the child's future permanent teeth.

A baby tooth usually remains in the child's mouth until a permanent tooth underneath it is ready to emerge through the gums. The roots of the baby tooth dissolve and the tooth becomes loose and falls out. The permanent tooth "comes up" a few weeks later. If a child loses a tooth too early--before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt--or if it is accidentally knocked out, or is removed by the dentist because of disease, the space must be saved. A space maintainer is inserted to take the place of the "baby tooth" until the permanent tooth is ready to emerge.

The space maintainer is a small metal device that encircles the tooth and the space to be saved. It "holds" the space until the permanent tooth is ready to erupt, stopping the other teeth from tipping or drifting into the empty space.

If teeth on either side of the open space encroach upon the empty space, there may not be room for the permanent tooth. The new permanent tooth may erupt out of its proper position and can affect positioning of other teeth. If teeth become crowded and out of alignment with each other, then the teeth are maloccluded. Maloccluded teeth are difficult to clean, have greater chances of becoming diseased, and later might require expensive and time-consuming orthodontic treatment.

During her pediatric dental residency, Dr. Stewart did research on pulpectomy therapy, which is a baby root canal, and is used to save teeth that the dental profession used to believe needed to be pulled. Her research was awarded as the top research project in a nationwide competition of eleven different pediatric dental residencies. No space maintainer can replace the full function of a natural baby tooth, and Dr. Stewart’s understanding of the newest techniques allow her to offer the best possible treatment for your child.